• Category Archives My ‘Other’ Life
  • Is It Spring Yet?

    A couple of days ago I actually got out into the yard to do some work. We have a couple of years worth of dead-fall that I keep promising to throw in a burn pile and every year manage to wait until burn season is over and have to put it off to next year.
     
    This year I did make a dent in it (a little dent but better than nothing). As I walked the property picking up branches, I noticed that there was a lot of flora that has supplanted our erstwhile lawn. When we moved in back in 1991, it was the 3/4 acre of lawn that attracted my husband to the property. All I saw was a ton of maintenance but just like a child who wants a puppy, my husband promised he would water and mow it – yeah right! And if you believe that, I have a nice little bridge I’d like to sell you. The first summer, he did mow it quite diligently but it fell upon me to weed, feed and water it. Hours and hours of watering and it still turned brown. We are on a well and fearing to run out of water, I dared not put any more water on it and it would turn brown every summer. As the years went by and I got tired of spending entire days pulling weeds, we ended up with 3/4 of an acre of dandelions. Oh well – at least they stayed green most of the summer.
     
    The years went by and as the lawn got more neglect the biodiversity sprang up. The back yard still has plenty of grass run wild at this point – more of a meadow than a lawn, but the front yard has become quite an interesting array of species. Years ago I noticed some wild violets springing up here and there in the shadier spots; initially they were yellow violets but then a couple of years ago suddenly they all turned purple – great big drifts of sweet lovely purple violets have taken over our lawn. This year, they were joined by a tapestry of wild strawberries. Again, this started with just a cluster or two that appeared on their own – I did not plant them, They don’t really yield much in the way of fruit, the berries are tiny (about 1/2″ at the largest), white and somewhat sweet but it would take a barrel of them to do anything with, the plants however are charming. The third tenant to show up is a small carpet of Forget-me-nots. Now these I did plant – about -18 years ago. They seemed to naturalize for a few years then disappeared but now they have made an appearance again. And finally, in the back yard close to the house, I have runaway oregano. I tried to plant a few herbs many years ago, most of them languished and finally died off but the oregano was tenacious and spread. It seems to have reverted to some ancestral species, the plants are robust but do not have a very intense flavor or fragrance, however they (like the dandelions) tend to remain green all summer long without benefit of a sprinkler so they are welcome to stay.
     
    Less welcome are the blackberries that are springing up in my erstwhile lawn, they are going to have to be addressed and soon. They took over my back vegetable garden encroaching from the neighbor’s yard and frankly, it became a full time job just keeping them at bay. Round-up just encourages them and Crossbow – while effective – is one nasty piece of work. Remember, I said we are on a well and I am ‘well’ aware that whatever I spray on the weeds, we will be drinking in a few weeks time. Before you wax poetic and say “Oh blackberries – why not just harvest the berries and make pies?” let me tell you that these blackberries are more seed than anything else, I may as well try to make a pie from Chia seeds (except Chia seeds get soft and slippery when wet, blackberry seeds remain hard like gravel). Add to that, I believe blackberries are sentient beings. I have never seen any plant fight back with as much seeming intelligence as those beasts, I am sure they hold conferences at night when no one is looking, plotting on how they will take over the world (or at least Oregon). They are accompanied in places by their ally – Russian Thistle which also fight back on any attempt to pull it up. Those spines can go right through leather gardening gloves! Also not welcome is the English Ivy that I (and the nursery who encouraged me to plant it 25 years ago) am responsible for. How I wish I’d never planted that and at some point I hope to be able to eradicate it (without heavy doses of poison) but I fear it’s a losing battle.
     
    I have posted some photos of the multiracial ‘lawn’ I now have along with pictures of my lovely Viburnum that is about to explode with blossoms and a lovely delicate Japanese water iris I have confined in a planter on my deck. I got a start for the iris from a cousin in Washington, I have no idea where she found it but I have not seen it in local nurseries here and in fact the only other place I’ve ever seen it in was in botanical gardens in Maui when I was there a few years ago.
     
    After a long hard winter, perhaps spring has arrived.

  • The Roots of Creativity

    Today, I want explore the roots of creativity – where do my ideas come from?

    Our minds are powerful computers – massive databases of everything we have ever seen, experienced or thought. The older we get, the more data that is filed away. Accessing it is the problem but even if I can’t remember creating a particular drawing it is filed away in the database quietly biding its time and whispering in my subconscious ear. There are designs I have created in recent years where the seeds were sown long ago in my past, seeds that germinated, put down roots and then faded in the winter season of my mind. The roots remained though and much like a perennial flower that slumbers for a time only to reawaken when conditions are right, these roots will sprout again.

    Some time ago, my brother who had been the ‘keeper of the family albums’, passed them on to me. “It’s your turn to hold on to these”, he said. Many were old photo albums with this generation’s pictures – my parents and grandparents, my siblings, pictures of myself – some triggering delightful memories and some embarrassingly awkward. Other albums housed older pictures, people vaguely familiar – old eyes staring out of young faces. Many I did not recognize and mourned the fact that no one had bothered to make notations of who they were; relatives – probably – but lost in time.

    One album did not contain photographs. It was a scrap book where my mother lovingly pressed all of our childhood artwork. drawings, Mother’s Day cards (prompted by teachers) and in some cases, class assignments. A surprising percentage of the artwork within was mine. I don’t think it was that our mother held a greater affection for me than my siblings but simply a matter of quantity; I was by far more prolific in my artistic endeavors than my brothers and sisters. Looking at all these pictures was a walk down memory lane; most I had forgotten ever creating until I saw them. My drawings and paintings spanned many years but as I almost never dated them I can only guess at what age I created them. There are clues – a cat I had when I was about 6 years old, the memory of when I received a set of pastels as a gift and first used them… most of the time I have to rely on looking at the relative skill in the artwork – as Monty Python famously said – “I got better” (in reference to a man claiming a witch turned him into a newt).

    What really surprised me was how many of the drawings have lain dormant for all these years only to blossom out again in the form of one or another of my quilt designs. Hand on Bible, I swear to you that I had no recollection of these original artworks when I created the quilts

    The Captain's Wife - I never was quite sure why this image was embedded so deeply in my head
    The Captain's Wife - I never was quite sure why this image was embedded so deeply in my head
    I must have been around 12 or 13 when I drew this. I can't remember what the inspiration was
    I must have been around 12 or 13 when I drew this. I can't remember what the inspiration was
    One of my Postcards From Japan series - Windswept Tree inspired by the twisted Cypress trees along the beach in Carmel California
    One of my Postcards From Japan series - Windswept Tree inspired by the twisted Cypress trees along the beach in Carmel California
    Carmel Sunset, crayon drawing. A drive along Carmel Beach was often a weekend treat when I was a child.
    Carmel Sunset, crayon drawing. A drive along Carmel Beach was often a weekend treat when I was a child.
    Center circle from my quilt Evening Song made in 1998 as an opportunity quilt for Northwest Quilters
    Center circle from my quilt Evening Song made in 1998 as an opportunity quilt for Northwest Quilters
    I'm guessing I was about 10 years old when I painted this watercolor
    I'm guessing I was about 10 years old when I painted this watercolor
    One of my Animal Totem quilts - Thunderbird
    One of my Animal Totem quilts - Thunderbird
    If I remember correctly, this crayon drawing was inspired by seeing Navajo carpets. I think I was about 6 years old at the time.
    If I remember correctly, this crayon drawing was inspired by seeing Navajo carpets. I think I was about 6 years old at the time.
    Another one of my Postcards From Japan series - Waterfall
    Another one of my Postcards From Japan series - Waterfall
    I guess I have always been impressed with the vision of a moody sky viewed through a notch in a mountain range.
    I guess I have always been impressed with the vision of a moody sky viewed through a notch in a mountain range.
    One of my embroidered Folk Art ornaments - the cat. I started making these felt ornaments back in the mid 1970s
    One of my embroidered Folk Art ornaments - the cat. I started making these felt ornaments back in the mid 1970s
    I have always LOVED drawing cats, this drawing was probably done when I was about 7 or 8 years old
    I have always LOVED drawing cats, this drawing was probably done when I was about 7 or 8 years old

  • What to do while you are snowed in? Make Potstickers!

    I love potstickers, we always order them when we go to our favorite Chinese restaurant (Hunan Pearl in Lake Oswego – if anyone cares to ask). I had just cooked up the last ones from the previous batch I made and froze and though I have some commercial ones from Costco in the freezer, I have yet to find a brand I like as much as my own. Luckily, I had anticipated making them and had the raw ingredients on hand. My husband doesn’t eat pork so I use ground turkey, it’s a great pretender when trying to replace pork (plain ole ground turkey, not ground turkey breast, it’s too dry and has a very distinctive taste). I also have diabetic issues and try to steer away from white flour so I used a mixture of AP unbleached white with King Arthur Whole Wheat White flour (very finely milled so it’s a pretty good substitute for regular white flour) at a ratio of about 3/4 whole wheat to white. I like to make my own wrappers, I do not like the commercial wonton/dumpling skins and there is an art to making the dough. I found a great tutorial online at Steamy Kitchen Cooking Shortcuts. For the filling I used the ground meat, minced Nappa cabbage, chopped water chestnuts, scallions, grated ginger and a bit of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce, and as an afterthought, threw in a bit of a dried tangerine peel/Szechwan peppercorn salt mix I make up myself. We had some with dinner last night – YUM!!! The rest are in the freezer in zip lock bags.
     
    I just hope that this doesn’t follow a precedent set about ten years ago in another record breaking snowstorm where I had just made five dozen potstickers to freeze the day before we lost our power in the storm. We were without power for 6 days and our generator was not working. Authorities tell you to keep at least several days worth of non-perishable food for emergencies – which we do, but we never touched it. After the first couple of days eating whatever we didn’t want to go bad from the refrigerator food we put outside in the snow (it was colder out there than in the fridge) our daily meals consisted of deciding what had thawed out enough that it needed to be eaten NOW and we had nothing but potstickers for dinner that night. By the second night, they had thawed out – probably perfectly safe but they had congealed into one big mass of dough with little meatballs. It hurt more to throw those away than the expensive roast that had to go into the trash; the roast may have cost more but didn’t take hours to make.
    My partially whole wheat flour potstickers
    My partially whole wheat flour potstickers